Bird-Friendly Buildings Starts with Building Relationships
Audubon Mid-Atlantic
Chapter Chatter Newsletter September 2021
Song Sparrow
Safe Passage Across the Network
Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Communities is comprised of two key elements, Plants for Birds and Bird-Friendly Buildings. With fall migration underway, we’re focusing in on the Bird-Friendly Buildings piece of the puzzle this month.

Our built environment is full of risks for birds. Deceptively clear glass and disorienting nighttime lights create hazards for birds throughout the year, but can be especially perilous during migratory periods.

Chapters across the network are advocating for bird-safe practices by engaging federal legislators, creating shareable resources, and building new partnerships. Read on to learn about cities participating in the Urban Bird Treaty program, an innovative partnership in Philadelphia, and a Maryland outreach program designed to reach new audiences. 

  Learn more about Audubon's Bird-Friendly Buildings program here.
Song Sparrow. Photo: Gerald Lisi/Audubon Photography Awards
White-throated Sparrow
It's Lights Out for Philly as Fall Migration Takes Flight
Nearly a year ago, a catastrophic bird mortality event in Philadelphia, sparked the formation of a coalition of conservation partners, academic institutions, private sector businesses, and Audubon chapters that led to the incredibly successful Bird Safe Philly initiative. Among the components of Bird Safe Philly, was the successful launch of Lights Out Philly, which saw 37 commercial buildings, 43 residential properties, and 6 municipal buildings turn off their excess internal and external lighting from midnight to 6 AM each night.

One of the founding partners of the Bird Safe Philly initiative is the Wyncote Audubon Society (WAS), which encompasses portions of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties. Deeply invested in the success of the effort, the chapter put together a winning Collaborative Grant proposal to underwrite the publication and distribution of a special edition of their newsletter, “Naturally,” focused on the Bird Safe Philly initiative. Combined with a fruitful 2021 Birdathon and outreach campaign, WAS raised nearly $7,000 to support Bird Safe Philly. These funds provided an avenue for a three-pronged approach that would support the initiative and create a model for Bird-Friendly Buildings engagement that could be replicated across the network.

First, WAS provided key financial support to the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education Wildlife Rehabilitation Clinic (SCEE). As needed, Bird Safe Philly volunteers provided transport to SCEE for injured birds where the staff and clinic volunteers went to great lengths to treat and care for collision survivors. During spring migration, SCEE treated 300 birds and successfully rehabilitated and released 83%.

Next up, WAS and the broader Bird Safe Philly team partnered with Barbara Allen, Director of Fresh Artists, to create an innovative approach to raising awareness of bird collisions with buildings and glass. Together, they collaborated with art teachers to encourage students to create projects that depict birds and inspire action to prevent collisions. The student creations comprised a major exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show and the Cherry Street Pier. Thanks to the fundraising effort earlier in the year, WAS provided both financial and volunteer support for the project, as well as Audubon Adventures materials for each of the participating teachers and students.

And finally, with fall migration already underway, WAS is providing support for the Bird Safe Philly monitoring corps by underwriting collection supplies for volunteers to gather birds that have perished and deliver them to the Academy of Natural Sciences for further research and documentation and transport supplies to aid birds who were injured in collisions and need medical care. Additionally, WAS is in the process of designing and producing safety vests for program monitors to help keep them safe as they venture out to do their work in the predawn hours, well before the rest of the city is awake and humming.

Check out all of the Bird Safe Philly Spotlights here

To learn more about Wyncote Audubon Society’s Bird Safe Philly and other Bird-Friendly Buildings efforts, visit them here.

 
White-throated Sparrow. Photo: Calum Wright/Great Backyard Bird Count
Bird-Friendly Building at Howard Community College
Audubon Society of Central Maryland & Safe Skies Maryland
As the new cycle of Audubon Collaborative Grants nears, Audubon Society of Central Maryland (ASCM) shows us an innovative way to leverage the power of those funds to establish and expand sustainable programming.

In 2017, the fatal collision of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo with a window at the home of Julie Dunlap, ASCM board member, became the catalyst for a partnership with the newly formed Safe Skies Maryland (SSM), a sub-committee of Maryland Ornithological Society’s Conservation Committee. What followed, is four years of incremental engagement resulting in expanded outreach, legislative success, and opportunities for growth that will continue to improve safe passage for birds.

The initial collaboration of ASCM and SSM in 2017 focused the breadth of their initial grant on homeowner outreach, developing a suite of educational materials and collaborating at events to get the word out. The following year, with another Collaborative Grant in hand, they added an educator kit and increased their outreach to include building owners, featuring a high-visibility retrofit demonstration site at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources headquarters.

The next two years saw two more successful proposals that added materials and resources for the Bird City Maryland initiative. In addition, a partnership with Howard Community College brought to life a new workshop tailored to architects and a collaborative monitoring program that helped the school make informed decisions on prioritizing glass treatments that would have the greatest effect on reducing collisions. And finally, funds supported the translation of all materials into Spanish, bilingual outreach efforts, and an upcoming presentation by Dr. Scott Loss of Oklahoma State University on his migratory bird window collision research, including social research into how public attitudes present barriers to addressing the problem.

ASCM and SSM have also worked together, in cooperation with Maryland Ornithological Society, Lights Out Baltimore, and Audubon, to support state-level bird-friendly buildings legislation. Concurrently, in 2020 partners advocated for a Bird-Friendly Design Standards bill in Howard County, which passed with a veto-proof majority. This is the first such county-wide legislation in the country. Funding from the Collaborative Grant was instrumental for creating a full-color fact sheet that helped explain the issue. As Carolyn Parsa, Director of SSM, puts it, “the Audubon collaboration has brought together many knowledgeable, caring, and dedicated people to work for the common goal of protecting birds from window collisions.”

For more information on SSM, contact email Carolyn Parsa or visit Safe Skies Maryland.
Members of the collaborative monitoring team at Howard Community College in front of one of the buildings enhanced for bird safety. Photo: Courtesy of Audubon Society of Central Maryland
Ovenbird
Urban Bird Treaty Community of Practice
The Urban Bird Treaty (UBT) program is a collaborative effort between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and cities across the country that has spanned over two decades. With laudable goals of habitat conservation, hazard reduction, and education in urban and suburban spaces, Audubon’s long-time partnership is no surprise. The linkages to Bird-Friendly Communities are easy to spot and for several years now, USFWS and Audubon have been engaged in thoughtful and deliberate coordination on urban bird conservation, particularly via Bird-Friendly Communities strategies. Partner cities in the Mid-Atlantic region include Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh.

The two pillars of Audubon’s Bird-Friendly Communities program align closely with the goals of the UBT program. Plants for Birds encourages the creation, enhancement, and restoration of bird habitat through the use of native plants. Bird-Friendly Buildings focuses on hazard reduction through Lights Out programs and Bird Safe Buildings outreach. And, both focus on meaningful community engagement around education, science, recreation, and conservation as a means of raising awareness and encouraging action.

The Audubon Bird-Friendly Communities team and the UBT program have joined forces in recent years to create the UBT Community of Practice, a forum of conservation practitioners from UBT and other cities that come together bimonthly to share information, experiences, tools, and strategies from their work. Participating members include representatives from all levels of government, community groups, academic institutions, and nonprofit organizations, including a number of Audubon chapters across the country. Presentations and discussions have highlighted examples of community engagement, partnership development, and integration of equity, diversity, and inclusion, and have featured a variety of initiatives including Lights Out programs and chapter-led Chimney Swift conservation efforts.  This type of sustained collaboration aims to create a network of colleagues and partners who can support and learn from one another to advance urban bird conservation across the country.
 
Ovenbird. Photo: Megum Aita/Audubon Photography Awards
Chapter Gathering
Get ready! Our virtual Fall Chapter Gathering for the Mid-Atlantic is shaping up for this November. 

We want your feedback on logistics and structure, as well as topics and speakers. 

SURVEY: Take this three-question survey and tell us your preferences for dates and meeting structure.

BRAINSTORMING: And, share your best ideas for content, topics, and speakers on our interactive, stick note mural board here. 

 
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